Studying can be difficult and, unfortunately, there is no one magic solution to help you ace that final exam. However, there are many studying tips and tricks that can help you study smarter, work more efficiently, and retain more information. Here are some of our favourites.
1. Take good notes!
Taking good notes is probably the most fundamental studying advice around. If you don’t take good notes in the first place, then no amount of cramming, flash cards, study groups, or wish fulfillment will get you that A.
Taking good notes isn’t necessarily about writing down every single thing the instructor says, either; you’ll likely wind up running on autopilot, and won’t absorb the information being provided. Instead, learn to pick out the most important points. Is the instructor writing something down on the board? That’s likely to be an important piece of information. Are they putting up slides that are going to be available online after the lecture? Don’t waste your time copying them down – print them at the library after class.
Listen carefully during lectures, and pay attention. Ask questions as they come up, and keep your brain engaged with the material being presented to you. This will make recalling the information easier when you sit down to study.
Finally, use shorthand as a tool to help you efficiently write faster so you can spend less energy writing, and more energy listening. There are many ways to use shorthand, whether it’s the deceptively simple Gregg shorthand or the adaptable style of Teeline shorthand. Find the technique that works best for you, practice it, and employ it regularly. It could prove to be a huge time-saver.
2. Go over your notes regularly.
Now that you’re taking such good notes, don’t let them sit there collecting dust until the night before your exam. Review your notes regularly to keep the information from falling into the back end of your mind. Whether you read them over a few times immediately after class, make time to read through all of your notes once a week, or find it more helpful to rewrite them when you get home from lecture, go over them and engage with them. This will help the material stay fresh in your mind so you have an easier time recalling the information when it really counts.
3. Find out what learning style you’re best suited to.
Everyone’s brain processes information a little differently. Therefore, we all have different learning styles that benefit us; whether we’re visual or verbal learners, or any of the other sub-categories that encompass different learning styles, there’s a distinct way that our unique brains process and absorb information. There are many quizzes and questionnaires available online, including the VARK Questionnaire, that you can take to help you learn a bit more about how you absorb information.
4. Set up study groups and meet regularly.
Our lives can be hectic, especially if you’re multitasking your academic life with other obligations like work or family. So finding the time to meet with a study group can be difficult, often leaving studying to the last minute before an exam. Do the best you can to set up a study group with some classmates, and meet as regularly as your schedules allow. Work together to quiz each other on the material you covered in class that week, or to practice new techniques on one another so you get a more practical understanding of the subjects you’re covering. No person is an island, so why study like one?
5. A healthy body means a healthy mind – take care of yourself!
Like taking good notes, this is probably one of the most fundamental tips for effective studying. Eat well, drink plenty of water, exercise, and get enough sleep. An exhausted brain will not adequately retain let alone recall information, nor will one that’s fuelled by pizza and Mr. Noodles. According to the National Sleep Foundation, anyone between the ages of 18 and 64 should be getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep, with 6 hours being the bare-minimum appropriate amount.
When it comes to food, a good rule of thumb is to eat as Michael Pollan, author of Cooked and In Defense of Food, suggests: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Make sure you’re putting green on your plate for every meal, that you’re getting a solid source of protein, and that you’re eating some grains, too.
When you have some spare time, walk, or take the stairs if you’re not running late. Incorporate exercise into your commute if you can; walk to class or work if you’re not too far. This will save you time in the long run, so by the time you get home your workout for the day is already done!
Keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times and make sure you’re drinking enough. The standard rule of thumb to drink eight 8-oz glasses of water a day is a good guideline, but it may vary from person to person. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that men need approximately 3.7 litres of water a day, whereas women need closer to 2.7 litres.
We hope these tips, tricks, and bits of advice have been helpful. Try them out, find out what works best for you, and happy studying!
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